By Celeste Young
The area along the state lines of Wyoming and Idaho is affectionately referred to as Wydaho. The area is quickly becoming known as a mountain biking mecca, with trails for everyone from beginners to experts, thanks to the many people and groups who have worked hard over the past decade or two to make this area a singletrack destination.
On this particular day, three of us headed to Jackson, Wyoming, from our home in Victor, Idaho, for a 20ish mile after work ride. We went through the mandatory checklist at the house, “Does everyone have their helmet, glasses, gloves, shoes, and bike?” Yet at the trailhead someone said, “Where are my shoes??” I always keep a pedal wrench, spare pedals (flat and clipless), spare tube, and other various emergency supplies in the car, but not shoes. Since we had already unloaded all the bikes and were almost ready to ride, the three of us jumped on our bikes and rode to the nearest Local Bike Shop, (riding in sandals and clipless pedals is not recommended, but you do what you have to do) and bought a new pair of shoes and cleats. A new pair was needed, as the old pair was pretty beat up. With sandals stuffed into the hydration pack, we headed out on my favorite mountain biking loop in Jackson: Game Creek Loop.
Game Creek Loop
Game Creek Loop: 20ish miles, intermediate/advanced. Park anywhere in town near Snow King, or at the Josie’s Ridge trailhead, at the Putt Putt trailhead, or at the Cache Creek Trailhead. Ride to the Josie’s Ridge parking area, and head up the hill. When Sink or Swim branches off, take it to traverse Snow King’s winter alpine ski trails and the summer hiking trail to Ferrins, a climb with many switchbacks. Remember that uphill traffic has the right of way; everyone we came across that day yielded to us. At the top, you’ll be in the Snow King Saddle, with the new Skyline trail to the left (construction in progress; when it’s completed, it will be a 6-mile connector that runs along the ridge. Warning: it will be closed for winter range from May 1 – July 1.) Head straight to descend the West Game trail. Be sure to stop a few times to enjoy the breathtaking surroundings. Check out the wildflowers that are blooming around mid-June: the pink sticky geraniums, deep purple larkspurs, and yellow arrow leaf balsam root flowers. You’ll pass through a couple of the burn areas from a fire a few years ago: blackened tree trunk remnants are offset by the emerald green of the spring grasses. Pass by the turn to Wilson Canyon to stay on West Game trail. Once you reach the T on the trail, head left and return to Cache Creek. Enjoy the reroute winding through the aspens; you’ll see the old trail that once was a grunt up the middle of the gully. At the summit, imagine you see where the Skyline trail will empty out once it’s completed. Descend down the rocky and precipitously steep (in one section) trail to where it meets up with the two-track. While you scream down the two track, be on the lookout for Putt Putt trail on the right. Follow Putt Putt back to town. Don’t be fooled! The climbing isn’t over yet, but the winding fun descents make the climbs in between worth it.
Once we completed the loop several hours later, only having to recover a lost sandal from the hydration pack once, we headed toward home. At the base of Teton Pass we were lured into Streetfood at the Stagecoach in Wilson, Wyoming, for dinner and a post-ride beverage. This is a popular hangout for both winter and summer adventure enthusiasts. It was packed with fellow riders who enjoyed the afternoon shuttling the DH trails on Teton Pass, cross country riders who had epic fun on the Phillips Ridge Trail, families relaxing on the deck, and even a couple of Wyoming cowboys who rode their horses.
The Game Creek Loop isn’t the only epic ride in the greater Wydaho area. The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) bestowed the award of Silver Ride Center status to the “Wydaho” area in 2014 and named it the Teton Region Ride Center. An IMBA Ride Center is known for having trails for all abilities and riding styles. There are endless possibilities of riding in the Teton Region from the Big Hole Mountains that border Teton Valley, Idaho on the west to east of the West Game loop ride described above.
Grand Targhee Resort (GTR), just 20 minutes from Driggs, Idaho, is home to an IMBA Epic Trail and a top five best bike park as ranked by MTBParks.com. Andy Williams, Harlan Hottenstein, and their trail crew are continuously working on building new trails and maintaining the current trails so they are in tip top shape. According to IMBA.com, the criteria to be rated an IMBA Epic trail are: technically and physically challenging, more than 80% singletrack and at least 20 miles in length. There are about 35 miles of singletrack that you can do, if you choose, at Grand Targhee Resort. That doesn’t include the 11 miles of lift-access downhill trails. I recommend the singletrack in this order: Andy’s, Buffalo Soldier (counter clockwise for a view of Grand Teton), Colter’s Escape, go past the yellow tent to continue down on the Mill Creek reroute. Be sure to stay right to ascend Rocky Mountain Way. Return to the resort via Action Jackson. Stop long enough to get more water and some more food and head out Pika Traverse to ride the loops out there counter-clockwise. If you’ve still got the legs for it, you can end your ride on Jolly Green Giants and Greenhorn, or by heading back out toward Peaked.
The greater Teton region mountain bike community is supported through the efforts of many non-profits that help build and maintain great trails in Wydaho. With volunteer trail days, afternoon dig parties, raising funds to pay trail crews, and by working closely with land managers the area trails are only getting better and better.
Teton Mountain Bike Festival
The 7th annual Wydaho Rendezvous Teton Mountain Bike Festival will take place over Labor Day weekend, September 2-5, 2016, at Grand Targhee Resort and the surrounding Wydaho area. The festival highlights the great and ever growing mountain biking scene in Wydaho, and is a fundraiser that supports trails. Join group rides, explore part or all of the trails at Grand Targhee Resort’s Bike Park, ride Teton Pass or the Big Holes, and be sure to take a 2017 demo bike out for a test ride. For more information, check out tetonbikefest.org.
Before heading out on any ride, but especially an epic ride in the Wydaho area, there are a few things to know. First, you are in big animal country. There are bears, moose, mountain lions – be sure to have bear spray and know how to use it. It’s best to ride in groups and make your presence known by chatting, laughing, and even singing. Beware of the elevation. In both Wyoming and Idaho, you are at a minimum at 6,100 feet of elevation. Some trails go as high as 9,862 feet. Give yourself extra time in case you need to slow a bit from your normal speed. The sun is strong and mountain weather can change in an instant. Even if your favorite weather app predicts a sunny 72-degree day, it behooves you to be prepared with sunscreen, a rain coat, an extra layer, and a basic first aid kit that includes an emergency space blanket. Of course, bike breakdowns can happen anytime. Toolkits with a flat repair kit are a must. In terms of trip timing, keep in mind that opening weekend at Grand Targhee was June 17, 2016, and they still had to shovel the snow in spots to clear the trails. The lower valley trails, such as the Horseshoe loops and Aspen Trail typically open after the winter closure ends in mid-April with an occasional patch of snow and a few mud holes. Your best bet is to wait until mid-June when the wildflowers start to pop and the weather is typically better. Typically, the riding is good through mid-September and can sometimes extend into October; other times it snows in October and doesn’t melt out until June the following year. If you’re looking to camp, there are several options for RV, tent, or dispersed camping. See Camping resources section.
Wydaho Biking Guides
The riding time for the West Game loop was about 3 hours. That didn’t include view breaks, pee breaks, or food breaks. A good estimate per hour of riding is roughly a liter of water and about 100 calories of food. A way to navigate is always helpful; there is the trusty map and/ or guidebook such as Teton Valley Trails and Pathways 3rd edition of the Wydaho Mountain Biking Guide. You can swing by bike shops in Jackson, Teton Valley Idaho, or purchase online at tvtap.org. If you haven’t downloaded the MTB project app on your phone, do so. It is a wealth of information, and the best feature is the GPS lets you know “You are here” with a blue dot on the digital trail map. The beauty in the Teton region is unparalleled; one way to take a piece of it home with you is with a camera. The most important thing to pack is a smile. Oh! And your shoes.
Other trails worth checking out:
Rush Hour – Beginner; Victor, Idaho to the Wyoming border.
Teton Canyon – Sheep’s Bridge Beginner, Mill Creek intermediate/advanced; Alta, Wyoming.
Horseshoe Canyon Loops – intermediate; west of Driggs, Idaho.
Aspen Trail – Intermediate; east of highway 33 between Victor and Driggs, Idaho.
Munger Mountain loops – intermediate. Follow Fall Creek Road south of Wilson, Wyoming to trailhead.
Big Holes – Grove Creek to Red Creek-Corral Creek loop – Expert. West side of Victor, Idaho.
– Spooky to Red Creek-Corral Creek loop – Intermediate. Pine Creek Pass, Idaho.
Teton Pass – DH shuttle with a friend or two – Intermediate → Expert.
– Teton Pass – cross-country Arrow to Phillips ridge – Intermediate.
– Teton Pass – enduro Arrow or Phillips ridge to Phillips Canyon – Expert.
Wilson, Wyoming side of Teton Pass.
For more trail information, Mountain Bike the Tetons’ website has several descriptions
Camping information –
Grand Targhee Resort – RV camping (and trailside lodging) Tent camping for special events only. grandtarghee.com
Caribou-Targhee National Forest – fs.usda.gov/activity/ctnf/recreation/camping-cabins
Campgrounds closest to Mountain biking trails: Teton Basin RD (Mike Harris Campground, Pine Creek Campground, Teton Canyon Campground, Trail Creek Campground)
Teton Canyon, Wyoming (between Alta, WY and Grand Targhee Resort) – open mid-may – early September. More info at: recreation.gov
Mike Harris Campground – Tent or RV, open May 15 – September 15
Driggs Forest Service office – 515 S Main St., Driggs, Idaho 208-354-2312
Jackson Ranger District – fs.usda.gov/activity/btnf/recreation/camping-cabins
Campgrounds closest to Mountain biking trails: Cache Creek & Greater Snow King Area, Fall Creek/Munger Mountain Area, Teton Pass Area
Jackson Hole Campground Fireside Resort – RV camping jacksonholecampground.com